On November 22, the online news agency the New Mexico Sun published the below Pete Dinelli guest column:
HEADLINE: Look ahead: ABQ’s 2023 municipal elections take shape
Democrat Pat Davis And Republican Trudy Jones have announced that they will not seek another term on the Albuquerque City Council in the 2023 municipal election. A total of 4 City Council seats will be on next year’s municipal ballot and include District 2 now represented by progressive Democrat Isaac Benton and District 4 now represented by conservative Republican Brook Bassan.
Republican Jones, 73, represents District 8, Albuquerque’s far Northeast Heights and Foothills. She will complete 16 years of service in 2023. She is a retired realtor and was the co-sponsor of the city’s Integrated Development Ordinance (IDO), which in 2017 replaced all the city’s zoning codes. This year she voted to support “Safe Outdoor Spaces” for homeless tent encampments and “motel conversions” to allow the city to purchase motels to be converted into long-term low-income housing.
Democrat Davis, 44, was first elected in 2015 representing District 6, which encompasses the International District, Mesa Del Sol, Nob Hill, Southeast Heights, and the University of New Mexico. Davis is considered the leading progressives on the city council and worked on the city’s early solar energy initiatives and co-sponsored legislation that strengthened the city’s immigrant-friendly status, and another bill that decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana before the state legalized recreational cannabis.
Both Davis and Jones failed at APD police oversight and did nothing when it came to APD reforms mandated by the Federal Court Approved Settlement Agreement. Neither challenged the previous and the current Mayor and APD command staff in any meaningful way demanding compliance with the Department of Justice consent decree police reforms.
Both Republican Trudy Jones and Democrat Pat Davis voted for the final adoption of the Integrated Development Ordinance (IDO), which is now having long term impact on historical neighborhoods as it favors developers. The IDO is nothing more than making “gentrification” an official city policy and the “gutting” of long-standing sector development plans. For decades, the development community sought to repeal those sector development plans designed to protect neighborhoods and their historical character.
The two other City Council District seats that will be on next year’s 2023 municipal ballot are District 2 represented by 4 term Democrat City Councilor Isaac Benton and District 4 represented by first term Republican Brook Bassan. Benton and Bassan have not said if they will be running again, but if they do it is expected they will have strong opposition.
Democrat Ike Benton, 71, is a retired architect. District 2 includes a large area of downtown Central and the North Valley which leans left and is heavily Hispanic. Benton, like Jones and Davis, voted for enactment of the IDO in 2017 despite District 2 having the biggest concentration of historical neighborhoods that is now being adversely affected the most by the IDO as it encourages gentrification. Benton also did nothing when it came to APD reforms mandated by the court settlement agreement after the Department of Justice found a “culture of aggression” and “excessive use of deadly force” by APD. Benton never challenged the previous and the current Mayor and the APD command staff demanding compliance with the DOJ consent decree reforms.
Republican Brook Bassan is the District 4 City Councilor serving her first 4 year term on the city council. The major borders of District 4 are generally Montano/Montgomery on the South, Tramway on the North, Academy/Ventura/Holbrook on the East and Edith on the West. It was in June of this year that Brook Bassan became embroiled in controversy when she became the sponsor for the “Safe Outdoor Spaces” amendment to the IDO. The change now permits 2 homeless encampments in all 9 city council districts with 40 designated spaces for tents, allowing upwards of 50 people, requires hand washing stations, toilets and showers, requires a management plan, 6 foot fencing and social services offered. Bassan apologized to her constituents for her sponsorship of “Safe Outdoor Spaces” and introduced legislation to repeal the land use, but the damage has been done with upwards of 6 applications for Safe Outdoor Spaces made with 3 approved and with one appealed.
The 2023 municipal election will give voters a real opportunity to select upwards of 4 new city councilors that could dramatically change the direction of the city policy as well as the balance of power. Citizens who are truly concerned about the direction of the city are encouraged run for City Council and provide real choices to those who are stepping down and from those that are already on the city council.
Pete Dinelli is a native of Albuquerque. He is a licensed New Mexico attorney with 27 years of municipal and state government service including as an assistant attorney general, assistant district attorney prosecuting violent crimes, city of Albuquerque deputy city attorney and chief public safety officer, Albuquerque city councilor, and several years in private practice. Dinelli publishes a blog covering politics in New Mexico: www.PeteDinelli.com.